Economic Times - Delhi

Tuesday, 17 Feb 2009

Page# :22

Size : 174.6 sq.cm. (38.8 col cm)

Wheel reaches Rs 2,000-crore sales benchmark
Prasad Sangameshwaran
MUMBAI

IT'S TURNED o u t literally t o b e HUL's W h e e l of f o r t u n e . D e t e r g e n t b r a n d W h e e l h a s b e c o m e fast m o v ­ i n g c o n s u m e r goods giant, H i n d u s ­ t a n Unilever's (HUL) first b r a n d t o cross t h e Rs 2 , 0 0 0 - c r o r e m a r k i n I n ­ dia. It also m a k e s W h e e l t h e first ever n o n - t o b a c c o c o n s u m e r goods b r a n d to reach that milestone. W h a t makes t h i s a c h i e v e m e n t u n i q u e is t h e fact t h a t W h e e l is n o t a n i n t e r n a t i o n a l brand, b u t a brand that was concep­ t u a l i s e d specifically for t h e I n d i a n m a r k e t . Significantly, W h e e l n o w h a s m o r e sales t h a n 2 7 3 of 500 largest I n d i a n c o m p a n i e s . In 2008, the b r a n d single-hand­ edly m a k e s u p for n e a r l y 1 3 % of HUL's t u r n o v e r . G i v e n t h a t it w a s l a u n c h e d a m e r e 22 years b a c k , it is a relatively y o u n g b r a n d in t h e HUL stable. T h e b r a n d c a m e i n t o exis­ t e n c e i n 1987, as a l o w - c o s t d e t e r ­ g e n t t o c o m b a t local rival N i r m a , w h i c h h a d b e e n rapidly g a i n i n g m a r k e t s h a r e a t HUL's e x p e n s e . Back then, the d o m i n a n t detergent b r a n d w a s Lever's Surf, b u t t h e b r a n d h a d c o m e u n d e r severe p r e s ­ s u r e from N i r m a . Lever executives decided t h a t downgrading Surf w a s n o t a n option a n d t h e y decided to l a u n c h a n e w de­ tergent. The l a u n c h w a s a success a n d almost instantly, W h e e l b e c a m e a force to reckon with. Not only did it m a n a g e to stem Nirma's assault, b u t soon over­ t o o k Surf, t h e d o m i n a n t Levers b r a n d of t h e time. Wheel's m a r c h to t h e t o p is

n o m e a n feat, if y o u consider t h a t Unilever first introduced a detergent brand, Sunlight, in 1888, t h a t still sells in certain states a n d Surf t o o h a s b e e n a r o u n d for almost 50 years. Based o n sales charts for 2008, W h e e l h a s m o v e d into a league of its o w n . So big is t h e b r a n d t h a t its n e t sales are greater t h a n t h e t u r n o v e r of 273 of India's largest companies t h a t feature i n t h e ET 500. O n its o w n strength, W h e e l also sold m o r e t h a n t h e standalone sales of FMCG compa­ nies like Gillette, Colgate Palmolive, Marico, Godrej Consumer, GlaxoSnntlriCline C o n s u m e r a n d Procter & Gamble Hygiene a n d Healthcare i n India (standalone sales in 2007-08). Hindustan Unilever skin cleansing a n d h o m e care vice-president Sudhans h u Vats confirmed t h e n e w s a n d told B r a n d Equity: "Wheel's success h a s b e e n driven b y its ability to leverage HUL's distribution strength to reach consumers in e v e n t h e m o s t r e m o t e parts of t h e country while providing a n affordable solution w i t h t h e right value a n d quality. The brand's ability to build a strong emotional connect w i t h t h e consumer h a s h e l p e d it to build a n en­ during value a n d appeal."
prasad.sangameshwaran@timesgroup.com

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